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these strange steps

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Day 21

"So," Joel says, giving them both an encouraging smile. "Did you sleep well last night?"

Quinn snorts, pulls a hand through her hair, and then just rolls her eyes. "Sure."

Rachel shakes her head after a moment, and then takes a deep breath. "Can we talk a little bit more about-about how much I expect from Quinn."

"Sure," Joel says, tilting his head and looking at her curiously.

"I think I actually kind of—let you tell me how I feel a little too much yesterday," she says, tentatively.

Joel looks at her in surprise and then says, "That's totally possible. You know that, right? I don't know everything."

"Okay, well, in that case... I want a rephrase. Because I don't actually... expect anything," Rachel says, trying the words out and then swallowing around them, with some difficulty. "That … would imply that I had any sort of … I mean, it's been almost eight years since we last saw each other, prior to this summer. I didn't-spend years trying to break onto Broadway so she would approve. I didn't think I'd ever see her again. But-her opinion matters to me, more than a lot of other people's. I want-I want to understand at what point that becomes bad, because-and I'm sorry, but I'll just be blunt about it-"

She glances at Quinn for a second, who has her most neutral face plastered on, and then looks back at Joel.

"I'm in love with her. And, leaving that aside, she's also one of the smartest, most accomplished people I know. Of course I care about what she thinks. I just don't know-"

She stops, immediately frustrated at-well, at least she has a fucking name for it now. For all those years of just blurting out everything she thought and said, she never thought this would be her problem: not actually being able to use the right words.

"You raise a valid point," Joel says, after a small pause. "I mean, we all have people that we would like to be impressed by us, right?"

Quinn's tongue runs past her lips for a moment, and then she says, "I'm pretty sure that half of what I do is still to somehow prove to my parents that-they don't own me, and I'm capable of more than they ever thought I was."

Rachel's hand involuntarily reaches across to Quinn's chair, and she glances at Joel with an almost ashamed look until he just stares back at her and says, "It's not my arm, Rachel."

Quinn glances over, and then after a very long, deliberate pause, lifts her own arm and holds Rachel's hand, until their arms are sort of uncomfortably dangling in the space between them. But-

She doesn't know what this is, either.

Joel rubs at his cheeks for a second, then up to his temples, and says, "Say Quinn-hates your next project. What does that do to you?"

Rachel shrugs. "I mean, she hated this one. I really couldn't care less."

"Are you sure?" Joel asks, narrowing his eyes a little.

Rachel hesitates, and then slowly says, "I don't... care if she thinks what I'm working on is bad. I'd care if she thought I was bad in it."

"What are the chances of that?"

"They're slim," Rachel says, and then snorts softly. "I don't know. I don't-Q, we don't talk about my job much, do we?"

"You don't seem to want to," Quinn says, glancing over. "It's not for a lack of interest on my part."

"Why don't you want to talk about it?" Joel asks.

Rachel shrugs. "Because-I don't know. It's just-it's just my job. I mean, it's-it's not even really mine anymore. It's just what I do. Other people have stakes in it."

"How does hearing that make you feel, Quinn?"

Rachel watches as Quinn takes a measured breath, and then says, "Like I personally ruined what was most special about her."

"So-my voice, then," Rachel says, with a small sigh.

"You don't think your voice is special?" Joel asks, before Quinn can say anything else.

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Well, no, but I have spectacular range and excellent control, so-by any objective standard, it's special."

Quinn sits up a little bit more, and there's just the lightest bit of pressure from the hand she's holding; it has Rachel looking over, and Quinn is frowning at her a little.

"Just because your voice is-a stand-out instrument, Rachel, and yes, it is incredibly special, doesn't mean that-it's the only thing about you that people notice." She blushes furiously and then says, "Forgive me for being so crude, but half of my sexual fantasies are about gagging you-how on earth would that do anything for me if I was purely interested in you for your voice?"

Joel looks between them and says, "Your ball, Rachel."

"I don't-I mean-isn't that just about … silencing me?"

Quinn rolls her eyes. "I'm not that literal, Rachel. I'm-I like doing things that drag you out of your comfort zone a little, and not being able to talk, not sing, but talk-it gets you worked up."

Rachel blinks at her furiously a few times, and then says, "Okay, so then-what else is there? I mean, what do you notice?"

"Hold up," Joel says, and they both look at him. "This is good, mind you, but let's go back one step. Rachel, why do you need to hear these things?"

"Because-" she starts to say, and then realizes she has no answers at all.

"Are you worried Quinn doesn't like you?"

She exhales abruptly. "No."

"How do you know she does?"

That makes her stare at both of them for a moment, until she laughs a little sheepishly. "Well, Jesus, who would voluntarily participate in this shit storm unless they did?"

"Rachel-" Joel says, a little reproachfully.

She sighs. "Of course she likes me. We email each other daily, and before that she spent a substantial amount of time with me, and I mean, I've thought many things about Quinn over the years, but not that she's self-sacrificing."

"Okay, but that's-factual. What about you does she like?"

Rachel looks at the table and then says, "I'm sexually very experimental and willing to do just about anything she's interested in."

"Please tell me that-" Quinn starts to say, but then shakes her head.


"No, I mean, keep going," Quinn says, a little flatly.

Rachel takes a deep breath. "I make her laugh, sometimes. She doesn't so much enjoy being teased but can take it from me, and I guess she likes that on some level. I'm not good enough to beat her at Scrabble. I'm an opportunity for her to cook things she wouldn't normally cook. I don't know. I mean. I don't know what else you want me to say."

Joel looks at her for a long moment. "What else do you want her to say?"

"I don't know," Rachel repeats, and pulls her hand back, curling it up on her lap, focusing on her breathing for a second. "Okay, I'm-can someone else talk for a moment?"

Joel says nothing, and examines Quinn for a little while, and then says, "You took offense to her starting point."

Rachel can see Quinn pursing her lips from the corner of her eye, but then just looks at her hands again, because-she needs a moment. She just needs a moment.

"I did," Quinn says, slowly. "It-cheapens the extent to which she's a part of my life. And I would really hope that after three months of talking to her more than I've talked to anyone in years, she'd recognize that I like her for more than just sex. That I like the way she processes things, and the way she approaches situations, balls out and without any visible fear even given, you know, what's going on with her. I like her courage, and her determination. She makes me want to be courageous like that, and try new things and just be-I don't know."

"And here she is, saying that you must like her because she's, well, flexible."

Quinn takes a deep breath and then says, "It's good to know that even the one person who's always maintained that I'm more than just a pretty face seems to somehow-"

"Don't," Rachel says, sharply. "You can't turn this around on me. I'm not-the one who doesn't let you know that you're wanted, okay? That's your game."

Quinn makes a frustrated noise and then just turns to look at her fully, abruptly angry; Rachel recoils without meaning to. "How can you still not know that you're wanted? Jesus Christ, Rachel, I cried for two days straight when you left-and then finally went back to work and my colleagues thought my cat had died, because my cat is the only fucking thing in this world that I've ever shown this much feeling for."

She's almost vibrating with-

Rachel has no idea what, but it makes her want to push back. "How can you not see that that's just-"

"Just what?" Quinn asks, in a trembling voice that actually kind of scares her, for a second, because Quinn might-she might just explode. And nobody here is ready for that.

"How do you expect me to-to not constantly crave your approval when-when it takes things like this for you to give it to me? How-how the fuck am I supposed to react to someone who literally told me not to call them unless granted permission, or-Jesus, Quinn, I don't know how to cope with this," she finally says, before bursting into tears. "You both act like there is something wrong with me for just needing her to tell me that she cares. Why does that make me so fucking pathetic, when there is no way for me to tell otherwise?"

Joel takes a deep breath and leans back in his chair unless it tips back a little. "Well. That's a question for the ages."

"You are being distinctly unhelpful right now," Rachel says, in a snitty little voice she can't control at all, wiping at her eyes with her sleeve.

After a second, Quinn chuckles weakly and says, "Are you going to storm out?"

"Fuck off-like you didn't spend half of your time in high school pitching fits and threatening to quit everything under the sun," Rachel snaps back.

Quinn actually looks taken aback, and then out of nowhere, smiles. "Oh, so I guess I wasn't perfect either? Well, imagine that."

They look at each other for another moment, and then Rachel laughs and looks away first. Everything about this is awful, but then on the other hand, it's Quinn. And maybe, that is the whole problem, but she knows what she wants and she's sick and tired of being made to feel bad about it.

"Let's go back to Quinn's earlier comment, about how despite everything, she still on some level craves her parents' approval. Do you let that control your life in reality, Quinn?" Joel asks.

Quinn shakes her head, after a moment. "No. Not consciously. But that doesn't mean that when I'm thinking about PhD programs to apply for, there isn't a small part of me that just wants to send them a hearty fuck you with a copy of my diplomas."

"Right. So it's angry, your determination to win them over," Joel says.

At Quinn's nod, he looks back over to Rachel. "What about your need for Quinn to-appreciate you?"

"It's not angry," Rachel says, with a small sigh. "I just-I want to be good enough for her."

"Who says you aren't?" Quinn and Joel say, almost simultaneously, and then Quinn rolls her eyes and adds, "Psychology jinx."

Rachel chews on her lip for a moment, and then says, "I guess... I do. I guess it's me. It's nothing she's doing, but I … can't imagine someone like her wanting to be with... Rachel who isn't a Broadway star, who isn't.. you know. Capable of leaving the house without being zoned out on a prescribed cocktail of crap."

"Okay, and if she doesn't want to be with say, Rachel with the agoraphobia, and Rachel without the stage and Rachel without the awards-let's take you out of the equation altogether. Say your friend Puck starts dating someone who only loves him because he's friends with you. Verdict?"

"Bitch," she says, without hesitating.

"So you think Quinn is a bitch," Joel says, almost pleasantly.

"I didn't-no, of course not. I mean, she was, and she's capable of it now, but-"

"Right, so, even though anyone else, who would show an interest in someone only over superficial external qualities, you would label as an asshole, you somehow find this tolerable in Quinn."

"Well, no, I'd-" she starts saying, and then tips her head back. "This is all very, very easy when someone else is telling me that I'm being ridiculous, you know. It doesn't change how I feel."

"Of course it doesn't. And yes, it's easy for me to say all of this, because I have the clarity of mind to, you know, see what's actually going on here. But that doesn't change that you need to hear it." He turns to look at Quinn again, and raises his eyebrows. "Quinn, what do you look for in a partner? Or hell, a friend?"

Quinn slowly straightens out her legs, and then says, "Patience. Forgiveness. Acceptance."

"Not love?" Joel asks.

She rolls her eyes at him and says, "What is love, but an extended chemical imbalance?"

"You are a real piece of work, you know that?" Joel says, laughing a little.

"Your real point is, in any event, that I don't require a seven digit paycheck, red carpet events, and a trophy room in my house," Quinn says, before looking at Rachel with a look that starts sharp, and then turns sad unexpectedly. "It actually pains me, not on behalf of myself but on behalf of you, that you think I'm here because you-I don't know, fucking sing a few show tunes exceptionally well."

"Why? You think I'm here because your face was reconstructed exceptionally well," Rachel says, after a beat. "If I'm an idiot, so are you."

Quinn takes a deep breath and then rubs at her face. "Okay. That's fair."

Joel looks between them, and then shakes his head.

"Rachel-five reasons why Quinn should want to be with you," he prompts.

She stares at him, unimpressed. "This is stupid."

"It's only stupid if you can't actually come up with five."

Well. There's a challenge she's not backing down from.

A frustrated breath later, and she holds up her pinky finger. "We have complementary interests; I don't just mean sexually, but I mean things like, she loves cooking and I love eating. We also enjoy playing board games together, and have similar taste in television."

Ring finger. "I'm... pleasantly argumentative, but these days, capable of admitting when I'm wrong, which means that debating things with me is actually fun. So I guess, I'm intellectually stimulating to be around, when I'm not Xanaxed out, anyway."

Middle finger. "I'm … I don't take myself very seriously anymore. I don't mean that in a negative sense, but I guess I've just grown up to the point where I can laugh about my own worst qualities. That makes me easier and more fun to be around."

Index finger. "I'm in great shape. I have great legs. They're very flexible and, okay, maybe that shouldn't matter but-I'm proud of the shape I'm in, okay?"

"That's fine," Joel says, mildly.

Thumb. "And-I will never abandon her. No matter what. That might sound like it's self-destructive right now, but I mean this in the sense where I'm incredibly loyal. She can lean on me, and she should."

Joel looks at her for a long moment and then smiles faintly. "That wasn't so bad."

"I don't hate myself," Rachel says, emphatically. "I just-hate what I've let this condition do to me."

"Which is?"

"It's-yeah, okay, maybe I do need someone like Quinn to now tell me that I'm … a great voice, and more than just a voice. Because with every passing year, the world I can inhibit has become smaller and smaller, and it's hard to feel great about anything when the only … the only audience you have for your great voice, or your great personality, are your three cats, who frankly could give a shit if you're sharp or flat on Ella Fitzgerald." She sighs and then shakes her head. "But it's-you know, you're right, it would hurt a lot. More than I can say, to actually get rejected by Quinn, but you're wrong if you think-if you think that nobody else's opinion matters to me. I'm … terrified of seeing my dads. I'm not even half the girl they thought they'd raised, and I have so many things to tell them. About high school, about college, about now-"

"Okay," Joel says, nodding a little. "Well, you know what?"

"What?" she asks, with a massive sigh, because she's so raw-she honestly doesn't know how much longer she can keep doing this.

"That's really good news. Because your fathers sound like the type of guys who will tell you, out loud, over and over again, that you're not letting them down at all."

Quinn shifts next to her, and then bites down on her lip hard enough for it to leave a mark. "Can we take five?"

"Of course," Joel says, and Rachel watches as Quinn shoots out of the chair and heads out into the hallway, before looking at Joel again.

He hesitates, and then says, "Rachel-she's here. How much more goddamned recognition do you need? Look at that girl."

There isn't much else to say to that, and after a moment, Joel says, "I'm going to call your dads. Do you want to say something to them?"

She's not ready, and so she shakes her head and wanders out into the hallway after Quinn, just leaning against the wall there for a long moment and breathing slowly and steadily until she feels herself hit that three out of ten again.

Of course, then Quinn ducks out of the bathroom opposite Joel's office with slightly wet hair, and hands that she's drying on her slacks more than anything, and locks eyes with her and halts.

"I'm sorry. For making you do this," Rachel finally says, lowering her eyes after a moment. "I know this is-pushing you along further than you want to go-"

"Rachel, it's fine," Quinn says, with a small crack in her voice. "I-owe you this much."

"You don't owe me-"

"No, don't," Quinn says, shaking her head. "This isn't about us now, or even about our future. This is about the past, and I owe you this much. Hell, I owe myself this much."

Rachel stays silent for a long moment, and then feels a brick wall of resolve rumble somewhere inside of her chest. "I really-I wish there were words to make all of this better. I know, I mean, objectively I understand now, at least a little, that you have the exact same problems that I do, and that-I can tell you you're more than beautiful, and that you are beautiful, until my dying days, and you're just-it's not me you can't believe. It's the words, and it's exactly the same for me. Okay? I-I don't know why you'd want to be with me, until I get over at least some of this, and become-"

"Do you need a hug?" Quinn says, roughly.

Rachel stares at her for a long moment, and then balls her fists and says, "Are you going to accuse me of expecting too much of you again if I say yes?"

Quinn shakes her head after a moment, and then awkwardly says, "I don't-I mean-how-"

"Just-open your arms, let me step into them," Rachel says, pushing off the wall and burying her face in Quinn's neck for a long moment.

Joel finds them like that, long moments later, and smiles a little, when Rachel spots him. "This is cute, but it's a shortcut. You guys need to learn to use your words, okay?"

Quinn sighs, so deeply that Rachel can feel it, and then with one lingering hand stroking down her back, steps away again.

"Ready?" she asks.

It sounds less like a root canal, this time, and more like-a six monthly check-up.

"Describe your perfect day."

Rachel sighs and rubs at her eyes. "I wake up next to … someone I love. We have sex, nice and easy, just to wake up and say hey. Then, we make breakfast together; lounge around for a little, with cats draped all over us, and maybe play a game or watch something together. Then..."

She takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and says, "Perfect, right? Not immediately attainable?"

"Perfect," Joel repeats.

"Then-we'd be able to leave the house. Go somewhere together; maybe head to a public park and read there, or go to MOMA and criticize modern art, or even just grab lunch in town before going to see a matinee showing on off-off that will be more entertaining than good. And-I don't know. After all of that outside time, I'd like to just come back and unwind; eat dinner, something I've not cooked, spend some time in the same room doing things separately, and then... More of what I woke up with."

"That's the perfect day," Joel says, with a small smile.

"Yeah," Rachel says, blinking her eyes open again, and deliberately not looking at Quinn. "It is right now, anyway. That's-I can't imagine wanting anything else."

"Tell me what's missing, from your perfect day," he asks.

She thinks back on what she's said, and shakes her head. "Nothing. Nothing I want or need, hence why it's … you know, a perfect day."


Quinn tugs a strand of hair behind her ear and then says, quietly, "You-the only context in which you mentioned Broadway was attending a show. There was nothing there about-your career, at all."

"What would your perfect day have been ten years ago?" Joel asks.

"Opening night, West Side Story," Rachel says, immediately. "With my-leading man waiting for me in the wings, with a giant bouquet of flowers, and-yeah. Then romantically doing me up against my dressing table, but somehow, miraculously, we were always both clothed."

Quinn laughs after a second. "Hot."

"I know, right?" Rachel says, with a small smile.

Joel tilts his head and says, "So. No Broadway."

It feels a little more grave, when it's just left hanging like that, and after a moment she takes a deep breath and pushes through it.

"No, I guess not."

"Scary?" Joel asks, and after a second, all she can think to do is look at Quinn.

Who looks back, mostly steadily, and then says, "I shouldn't have to tell you this, but it doesn't matter to me."

Rachel rubs her tongue against the inside of her cheek and then says, "Yeah. That's really scary. Because it's what I've defined myself by for so long that... I might resent it when other people do, but … it is what I was."

"Was," Joel says.

"I guess it's not anymore, if my perfect day is-incredibly pedestrian, and nothing to do with success at all. It's almost like..." She frowns, and then shakes her head. "It's like getting what I thought I needed flipped the world on its head and showed me what I really wanted."

"A day with someone you love."

She nods, after a moment, and then smiles a little weakly. "Yeah."

"Is that scary?"

She can't not look at Quinn, at that, and then nods. "Yeah. Because I can't-it's not like Broadway, where I was probably going to make it. I had control over... everything in my own auditions, you know. When I was in the right place at the right time it worked. But … this?"

She hesitates, and then lowers her eyes to the floor.

"I can't do this on my own. I need-someone else, to want it with me."

"Do you think someone will?" Joel asks.

The no, and the scoff, both present themselves for duty loud and clear, but after a second she realizes that she's hesitating over them, and then says, "I don't know. I think-not now. But maybe if I keep... keep working at making that walk in the park a reality, some day. Maybe not Central Park, but-a park. Out in the suburbs. Maybe-"

She hears Quinn breathe, shakily, and looks over. "What?"

"No, I just-I'm …" Quinn says, before waving her off. "My own things. Nothing to do with you."

"Your things always have to do with me, Quinn."

Quinn gnaws on her lip for a few long seconds and then shifts, until she can pull one leg under her, and then goes back to staring out the window. "My therapist suggested the other day that I started stripping in large part because I knew it would keep people at bay. That's what I was thinking about. But-"

Rachel stares at her intently, and then watches as Quinn sort of smiles.

"But what?"

"But-as much as I tried to get you to … resent it, or at least find it off-putting, you just... sort of worked around it. And-I listen to you talk about that park, and I'm just like, … Rachel, the right person isn't going to give a shit if it's Central Park or like, two square feet on your balcony. They'll just want to be with you."

Rachel smiles at her slowly, and then says, "Right, but-I don't want Central Park for them. I want Central Park for me. With them."

Joel makes a hmm noise and then says, "Your rebuttal, Miss Fabray?"

"I'd say-" Quinn says, and then gives Rachel such a patiently caring look that she almost starts crying again at it, "-that by any clinical definition, that sounds like a healthy attitude to take."

"So let's go back to the start. Rachel-you want Quinn to approve of you."

"Yes," Rachel says, and then pauses, and says, "No."

"No?" Joel says.

"No," Rachel says, and shakes her head. "I don't-want her approval. I mean, approval of what, even? I-you're right. I don't even want the stage for myself anymore. So I don't care what she thinks of it."

"That's quite a different tune from what you were singing yesterday," Joel says, carefully.

Rachel closes her eyes, and then just sighs. "It's because-I suffer from this thing called alexithymia and I don't always understand what it is that I'm feeling. But no, it's not about-I don't need to feel like I'm good enough for Quinn. I just need to know that-"

"That what?"

"That I'm someone she can love."

"Oh," Joel says, folding his hands together, and smiling at her gently. "Well, then. That's a very different story."

Quinn exhales slowly and says, "I'm-Jesus."

"Not now. I don't mean now," Rachel says, after a moment. "I just need to-I need to know that the potential is there. When the cards line up right, and-when I find something to do that is about me, that isn't singing, or at least not Broadway. I don't want-" She sighs, and pulls her hands through hair and then shifts until she's facing Quinn. "Please don't take this as-something to pressure you, or something that … I need from you."

"How?" Quinn asks, a little thickly, before looking over. "Of course it's something you need from me. I spent years tearing you down. And now..."

The room falls silent, and Quinn shifts until her elbows are on her thighs, and her face is in her hands.

"I mean, I knew this was coming. And of course it's nothing but logical, because once you break something down, if you want to keep it, you're going to have to build it back up again eventually, but God, this is-I'm not good with words, the way you are. Okay? Maybe you're right. Maybe it's normal, for you to want to be told that you're pretty, and that I like you, but-"

Joel leans forward, until he can lock eyes with Quinn. "Hang on a second, right there."


"You just assumed something. You-took one of Rachel's base traits and flipped it over to yourself. Think about what you just said."

Quinn expression shifts rapidly, until she shakes her head. "I'm sorry, it's been a very long two days and-"

"You're not good with words," Joel says, slowly.

"Ah," Quinn says, rubbing at her forehead with both hands and then sighing deeply. "Yes, okay. I won't get into a discussion with you about how pedantic hammering on logical fallacies is likely to alienate your patients, but-"

Joel chuckles. "Nice."

Quinn puffs out her cheeks for a moment and then says, "Rachel is literally one of three people on earth I can bear being touched by. So-if your solution to not doing it with words is doing it with gestures, you're also barking up the wrong tree."

Joel is quiet for a long moment, and then looks at Rachel. "Does she ever successfully abate your anxieties about not being interesting or good enough?"

"Yes, all the time," Rachel says, and Quinn looks over with an unreadable look at that point.

"During sex?" Joel asks, lightly.

Rachel feels her cheeks heat up, but then nods. "Yes. It's-the attention she gives me, and the way she focuses it on me-it's impossible to not know that... well. She's right there, with me."

"Just during sex?" he asks, a little more cautiously.

Rachel takes a deep breath, and then shakes her head. "She-watched me make coffee exactly once, and hasn't since then had to ask how I take it. She … when she's done showering, she folds her towel in the same way I do. She remembers that I'm vegan. My-my last boyfriend, on our six month anniversary dinner, cooked me steak. She pauses the channel when she lands on something that she thinks I might want to watch, and-"

Rachel trails off and looks at Quinn, before shrugging lightly.

"Okay. I think that's it, for now," Joel says, after a long pause, which mostly involves them staring at each other with searching expressions. "Because-there are clearly problems here we are not going to fix in a day. Rachel, some part of you will always smart at what Quinn used to do to you, just like some part of Quinn will always feel guilty, and try as hard as she can to make up for it now, okay? That's something you both are going to have to live with."

Rachel nods after a moment. "I know that."

"As do I," Quinn says, sitting back again and looking at Joel with a hesitant look on her face. "Can I ask you for your professional opinion?"

"Sure," he says, looking at her very neutrally.

"Is it-going to be harmful to us to stay in contact, now?"

She sound so worried, and so randomly insecure, that Rachel feels something incredibly unfamiliar wash over her; it's a feeling of recognition, and before she can do anything else with it, her hand is already reaching for Quinn, grasping her knee and squeezing there, gently, until Quinn looks over and the mild worry in her eyes softens.

Joel muses over her question for a long moment, and then says, "No. But if I can be honest-because you both are much more comfortable with say, physical intimacy than emotional intimacy, I would really advise you to take it easy on that front until you've found a comfortable space to be in emotionally, okay?"

Quinn nods. "Okay."

"Can I ask you for a professional opinion?" he asks, with a small smile.

Quinn blinks at him, and then says, "Sure."

"Hypothetically, if I had a patient in here who say, had notorious difficulty talking about themselves and struggled with being emotionally honest to any great extent, but made a significant effort to do so because of how those limitations affected someone very important to them, what should I be telling them, at the end of an incredibly draining session?"

Quinn half-smiles and says, "You're kind of a jerk, do you know that?"

They're out on the beach, together, and after a moment Quinn takes off her heels and sits down on the sand, probably ruining a two thousand dollar suit in the process, but she doesn't look like she cares at all.

"I will … gladly never do that again," Rachel says, after a long moment.

"We're going to have to," Quinn says, neutrally, and then stretches her legs out and stares off into the ocean for a long moment. "And it will get easier, and we'll stop-speaking different languages. And I mean, of course it won't always be like this. Friends or otherwise, … not every day is running over a set of burning coals. It wasn't even for me in middle school."

Rachel looks over after a moment, and smiles at the way Quinn's face is drawn a little tight, but with every lap of waves onto the shore, she seems to relax just a little bit more.

"I think of this ocean as... the you ocean," she finally says, quietly.

Quinn looks over, shifting from the loveliest profile Rachel has ever seen to even more than that, and then smiles a little. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Rachel says, and digs her hands into the sand.

They're quiet for a very long time, and then Rachel feels it happen-for the first time in God knows how long, but it's the same sensation that she's always had, when it does, and she lets it softly run up her spine, until it's almost bursting in her lungs, and all that's missing is-

But then it hits her, and she clears her throat, and out comes a song she played on repeat endlessly in her sophomore year of college, after seeing Cat Power perform live in a small venue downtown with an almost hypnotic level of loss of self in the music.

Quinn lets her sing, at about one thousand of the decibels she normally has to reach for work, and then reaches over after a long moment, digs her had out of the sand, and tangles their fingers together.

"What was that?" she finally asks.

"A Velvet Underground cover," Rachel says, feeling grains slip between their hands, nestling there and scratching a little. "By Cat Power."

"As in-cats are awesome?"

Rachel laughs abruptly, and says, "No, I mean, well. Maybe? I don't know."

"Can you get... Cat Power to work on Fuck Asparagus: the Musical?" Quinn asks.

Rachel stares out into the waves, and licks at her lips, and then looks at Quinn.

"If I can come to terms with the fact that my life isn't turning out the way I'd planned at all, I'm pretty sure I can actually do anything," she finally says.

Quinn gives her a small smile, and then looks out into the distance again, her perfected nose in sharp relief to the setting sun in the horizon.

Rachel inhales the outside air, looking in the opposite direction, and then tells the most pressing of truths, just because it's that kind of day. "God, I miss coffee so badly."

Quinn laughs, and leans into her side just a little bit more, and Rachel feels herself plateau to a three, after a long day of being at eleven, even before Quinn says, "You know what will help?"

"Double dosing when I'm out of here?"


"Quinn, I like caffeine. Not unbearable bitterness."

"Yeah, but-that's why you also top it off with double the sugar. You can be a radical and throw in some cream, I guess."

"Is that a euphemism?"

"... no. And, just in case you forgot, I hate you a little. Sometimes."



"Right back at you."

Day 21

I went from 3 to AHHHH to 3.

I also think I formally retired exactly six hours ago, and now have to come up with a way to tell Kurt. And everyone else. Who-honestly, I don't even care what they think. They probably won't understand, but it doesn't matter. I don't understand why on earth Tina and Mike won't move out into Jersey when it'll save them a shitload of money either, and I've left that alone for years. They can extend me the same courtesy, because I'm doing this for me. (3/10!)

I sang I Found a Reason today, because I think I maybe did. And it's not Quinn. It's-the perfect day. She's in it, obviously, but-even without her, I would want that day. With cats and coffee and matinees and stir-fry dinners and-a feeling of complete and utter peace.

Even if it's only for a little while, that's what I want. And as for the rest of my life:

I have no fucking idea, but I guess I have time, to figure it out.